Adopting an HIV Positive Child. As Simple as Saying Yes
By Julie Reid
Anyone who has adopted a child from a developing country can tell you they all come with special needs. They vary from child to child and range from simply needing extra love and attention to the effects of malnutrition, to bonding disorders, some come with HIV. But all children are deserving of the love that a mommy and daddy can give them; and the curative power of a family structure on any need is simply beyond what most doctors can explain. Love, simply put is some of the best medicine for any child; especially those with HIV.
In my travels I have had the opportunity to meet some extraordinary families. They are brave beyond measure not only because of their willingness to adopt from a culture and country foreign to their own; but also because they have been willing to bring a child with HIV into their home – to make friends with a disease that many of us really are both unfamiliar with and frankly uncomfortable with. They have invited this disease to become a part of their everyday lives – through the miracle of adoption.
Here is one such family, who I promised would remain anonymous due to the STIGMA still suffered by families who adopt HIV positive children – but also to protect the privacy of their daughter until such time as she chooses to share her status publicly. I pray that their story will inspire you to begin your journey towards adoption, and if called adopting a child with HIV, may it be as simple as saying, “Yes Lord, Here I am.”
What made you first decide to adopt?
I knew I would adopt at a young age. I used to tell people I wanted a "Rainbow Family"... one of every color. My husband knew in college that he wanted to adopt. We both felt like there were so many kids without homes. We knew we would and could love a child that was not blood related... so deciding to adopt was a simple decision for us.
Did you know your child you were adopting was HIV positive?
Yes, we knew ahead of time – when we received her dossier.
How did that affect your decision?
It didn't really affect our decision. We just knew she was ours. We prayed about it, and felt like the Lord was leading us to her.
What did you know about HIV going into the adoption?
We understood the disease and how it is transferred. We never worried about transmission to our children or to us. I didn't realize that the medicines worked so well and that children with HIV have a close to or normal life span.
Since you adopted your child what have been the HIV related challenges that you faced?
The only issues have been social not medical. Our daughter does great with her medicine. It has worked well since day one. She was undetectable six weeks into her regimen. We joke that she is our healthiest child. She is never sick!!
Have you faced any STIGMA from friends and family?
Yes, this has been the hardest part of the disease. Overall, friends have been supportive and great! Our friends’ kids run with our daughter, go on bounce houses with our daughter, swim with our daughter! Most forget she is even positive.
Family has been great as well with the exception of a few family members. It has been a difficult year because some family members will not bring their children around our kids anymore. Even though they know what the research says, they say that we cannot provide them with a 100% guarantee.
They are right, we can't. But we can guarantee that it hasn't been transmitted casually, or in playgroups, at church etc. Regardless, I think our daughter's life is worth the very, very, slight and minimal risk. We take risks daily in our lives. When we put our kids in a pool, when we drive to the store, when we go to a public place. Life is full of risks. She is worth the risk involved!
How have you addressed the HIV with friends and family?
Yes, we provide them with a letter and links to the CDC. It has been very helpful in educating others.
What would you say to anyone looking at adopting a child with HIV?
Pray about it! The medical part should be relatively easy to deal with, but pray for a heart that is filled with grace. This is something we are still learning. We have learned a lot about forgiveness and grace this year,
Do you have other children and how have you handled the HIV with them?
We are very casual about it. We tell them not to touch anyone's blood and that is about it. It’s a good practice to get in with your kids anyway, to teach them about not touching blood. They kiss our daughter, eat after her, bathe with her.... you name it! There is no difference in our house!
Anything else you would like to share?
We can't imagine our life without our daughter. The amount of joy she brings us is incredible. She is the happiest, craziest little two year old!